So, when last we spoke about French macaroons (or macarons, if you want to be fancy), I was feeling pretty good about them. I had made one batch, my first batch ever, and sure...they looked a little like amoebas, but hey...they had the correct texture, little feet, everything. Since then, however, I have been ma(ca)rooned on the Island of Persnickety Cookies, trying my darndest to recreate that first batch.
Seriously, folks, like 7-or-8-failed-batches-trying.
I spent hours and hours researching recipes, technique, etc. (because this seems to have been a recurring obsession of internet-bakers, there is a TON to look through). I read and re-read Tartelette's tutorial and tried, and tried again. But they just. weren't. right.
This story does have a happy ending, so don't get depressed yet.
See, up there? Those pretty, sandy little things?
Well, my magical mom (cold-fixer and nice-weather-bringer) also got in on the macaroon obsession when she was here on her visit. We tried making a few batches together, trying out two different recipes, and both failed, so she got all monomaniacal like me and resolved that we WOULD indeed get some decent macaroons. She searched around a bit online, and came to the A La Cuisine! post on macaroons (which I, curiously, had seen but hadn't tried).
And it seems to be the perfect macaroon recipe. I'll have to try it a third time before I declare it nearly-bulletproof, but applets: this is the one to try if you want to give the tricky little things a go. After trying and failing so many times, nearly being in tears with frustration, this recipe just worked like a dream...I think his proportions are just right-on-the-money. I now feel confident about the 5 lbs of Blanched Almonds I've got sitting in my kitchen, because I know they will turn into something good. I also thought I would try to outline the tips I found especially helpful in making these (so that something worthwhile came out of all the blood, sweat, and near-tears). They're illustrated by bad photos that were taken at night, so don't judge too harshly.
If you want to continue on this baking-geek-out odyssey with me, please click below to read on!
Follow Clement's recipe + instructions, but keep these tips in mind:
1.) Start with aged egg whites. It sounds gross, but it really and truly will make for better cookies. Just age them a day or two if you remember. If you don't, you can definitely use room temperature whites freshly cracked, but aged is best.
2.) Grind your own almonds, don't use almond flour. I don't know what it is, but the flour just doesn't work (for me at least). And be sure to blitz your powdered sugar in there with the almond meal.
3.) Whisk through the almond/sugar mixture with a fork to break up all visible lumps.
4.) When you get to beating your egg whites, add a pinch of cream of tarter powder to your meringue when beating in the sugar. I think it helps stabilize the egg mixture just a little. Continue to beat til' the real "stiff peak" stage, when they totally defy gravity like below. My mom chastised me for my wimpy meringe-peaks that flopped over like little waves.
5.) Be careful, but not too careful, when combining the meringue and the dry mixture. It will take a little while to combine the two, but don't overbeat it. But by the same token, don't underbeat it. A good test, when it seems to be reaching the right consistancy, is to drop a dollop out on the counter/work surface and see if any peaks dissolve in about 30 seconds. The mixture should be smooth, shiny, and ooze with relative ease.
6.) This tip is one of my favorite internet tips of all time...if you're alone in the kitchen (or don't want to bother the other peeps in your house with your baking mania) use a large glass to stand your ziplock bag or pastry bag in, and then easily fill it with batter (or frosting or whatever it is). I just use a large ziplock for these with the corner cut off to pipe, 'cause I'm a classy chef.
7.) Snip a 1/2" wide opening in the corner of your bag (if you're going to the bag route) and pipe as below onto your parchment. You can see where I had just topped off some of the ones in the front with fresh batter, and that might help you get an idea of the right consistancy the mounds should be. Then let them sit...they should develop a "skin" within 30-45 minutes. After this, you can pop them in the oven (top rack, please!)
I would recommend hunkering down in front of your oven window with the interior light on, and watching what my mom and I (nerdily) called "The Macaroon Channel" or "Macaroon Theater", because this is where you really find out if they worked out properly.
After about 5 minutes, your cookies should definitely have little "feet" (the crunchy-looking skirts at the base) or at least the beginnings of feet. If they don't have them then, it is a bad sign...they likely won't develop them at all.
Finally, when they come out (hopefully perfectly) of the oven, let them cool around 10 minutes and then (using this perfecto recipe) they should just pop right off the parchment. When they're completely cool, you can fill them or seal them up (or freeze them) and fill them later with chocolate, buttercream, jam, whatever you fancy.
I think they're worth the trouble, and the challenge has been half the fun. Hopefully, you'll get perfect little cookies the first time, and the only thing you'll have to worry about is what to do with all the sugary little morsels!